For the Parkview Baptist High School baseball team, showing up to load trucks for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank wasn’t much different than any team exercise, really.
Instead of tossing a baseball, they were passing boxes of food left over from an Associated Grocers’ trade show Sept. 24 at the River Center. They, along with a few St. Joseph’s Academy students, packed, organized and loaded enough boxes of food to fill three trucks, one 18-wheeler and two Food Bank box trucks, at the request of Bonnie Bordelon, volunteer director for the organization.
The process took about an hour and a half, seniors Eric Wharton and Hayden Nickens and sophomore Darius Jones estimated.
Most of the team signed up for volunteer duty when asked by their coaches to do so, Wharton said. Besides, it was for a good cause. “It felt good to know we were helping people,” Wharton said.
While Wharton and the others may have had Food Bank recipients in mind with that statement, they also were face to face with the people they were helping.
“When they got there, I had planned for them to be there until 6:30 (p.m.), but they were done a little after 5,” Bordelon said. Everyone from Bordelon, herself, to the truck drivers got home a little earlier than expected.
“I was very impressed with their organization, and we didn’t have to tell them anything once we told them what needed to be done. They just got it done. They already knew how to work as a team, and you could tell,” she said, adding that this made the process a lot easier for everyone. That’s a big help for an organization that coordinated the efforts of 2,600 volunteers last year.
Patsy DeShazo, volunteer coordinator for community service at Parkview, had the students’ spiritual growth in mind when she was put in charge of its implementation this year.
“For the first time, this year, every student is required to complete at least 10 community service hours each year at Parkview in order to graduate,” DeShazo said, something many other high schools in the area already have implemented.
When the project was done, Bordelon told the students what a great service they had done, “and then one of the boys from the baseball team said, ‘Let’s pray,’ ” she said.
“Everyone gathered up as a group and said a prayer, and I was glad to see it. It think it’s great that they showed that kind of appreciation for their faith,” Bordelon said.
To these team members, however, it wasn’t really something to brag about. Prayer is an important part of their faith, and faith is a big part of their lives at Parkview Baptist. Asking for God’s blessing, guidance and giving thanks comes with the territory, they said, and if they can be an example of faith to others, even better.
They were there, technically speaking, because they needed volunteer hours, but DeShazo agrees that if they were only in it for the hours, they would have taken their time, not finished early.
“It’s very much in line with our mission, to serve God and serve others,” she said, and with that comes not simply doing but doing one’s absolute best in everything, no matter who is watching.
When DeShazo heard that report, she swelled with pride, and it further confirmed that God had put her where she needed to be after 38 years of teaching.
She’s taught everything from civics, free enterprise, the Bible and psychology, among others, and often those classes came with a lot of discussion of the role good citizens play in their communities, including volunteerism.
The idea of helping people when they’re in crisis had come up in theory, DeShazo said, and occasionally in practice during those years.
But it wasn’t until her own crisis three years ago that she learned a profound lesson about community.
“I’m a two-year survivor. I had breast cancer,” she said. She kept working full time while going through radiation treatments, and it was there that she learned what having faith and being grateful for it truly meant.
“When I got diagnosed, I spent a lot of time saying, ‘Why me, Lord?’ But when I went to get radiation treatments, I looked around that waiting room and saw other people who were doing a lot worse than me. It was then I started saying, ‘Why not me?’ ”
Friends and family — including her co-workers and students at Parkview — were a lifeline when she needed it, and she learned valuable lessons about herself, her faith and her Parkview family.
Seeing people asking for, and accepting, help can be a humbling experience, she said — she knows it first-hand.
“I want to see every student here grow from these experiences,” she said.